A fantasy series based on hip hop and the philosopher David Hume. A coming-of-age tale set in the Caribbean. A series for girls that lets them choose their own endings. A story about a 19th century female musical prodigy. Put four authors together and you’ll get four wildly different subjects — and four wildly different roads to writing. Here are some start-up stories to inspire and embolden you:
One author had a checkered career as a truck driver, dancer, and floral designer before picking up her pen. Another landed her first gig writing books for a kids’ TV series by answering an ad on Craig’s List! A third wrote two chapters on spec, sent them to an agent, closed a book deal, and completed her YA novel in three months. And the fourth self-published his fantasy in paperback when he couldn’t find an agent or publisher and ultimately landed a six-figure book contract with a major house.
What advice did these four authors have about getting started? Get out there! Go to everything, talk to everyone, don’t keep what you’re writing a secret — let people know so they can help you. Build alliances and network as a way of empowering yourself. If you’re publishing independently, take advantage of the control you have over your product to create an exciting cover and trailer. Befriend librarians — they’re often ardent book lovers, willing draft readers, and founts of information.
Don’t be afraid to play around with format. One YA writer used personality quizzes in her book to interact with her readers and help them understand the choices her characters were facing. Be bold when it comes to marketing — it’s a do-it-yourself game even if you have a big publisher behind you. The self-published author created a fictitious publicist to promote his book, persuaded a friend to create a knockout book trailer, and sold the audio rights to his book on his own. Another author found a doll that resembled her young heroine, started sending it to kids all over the country, let them photograph it and write about its adventures, and chronicled the doll’s journey on her book’s blog. And last but not least, write the best book you can write and always keep working on craft.